Introvert

Breaking The Stereotype Of Being A Quiet Asian


Early Childhood

Growing up as a fourth generation Japanese-American I was raised in a cultural home, but didn’t see through a lens of color. My family celebrated holidays with some Asian flair, but it wasn’t at the center of the household.

As a child being compliant in the classroom was encouraged, but I wasn’t taught being quiet was expected. I was self-motivated as a student. I completed my work and got good grades with minimal effort. As a minority in the classroom I was probably labeled a quiet Asian boy, but it wasn’t a stereotype that bothered me.

Culturally Asians are raised in strict households filled with obligations to abide by. Fortunately that wasn’t my upbringing.

I might have been labeled one of those shy Asians, but spoke up when needed. For example I participated in the annual Spelling Bee and speech contest. I didn’t always win, but my nerves didn’t get the best of me.

Throughout elementary and middle school private schools sheltered me to a degree. But also bred a strong self-confidence from playing sports and achieving academically.

Searching For Identity 

The concept of an introvert didn’t really hit me until high school. It’s where I experienced some failure both in class and on the court. Since most things came easy when I was younger I didn’t know how to cope when things didn’t go my way.

Compared to my peers I was quieter in the classroom. It had less to do with being an introvert or quiet Asian and more to do with not wanting to learn.

It was my first experience forming camaraderie with people who looked like me. From the outside my friends and I looked like shy Asians. To this day most of my close friendships were formed in high school.

It’s funny because looking through a cultural lens Asian shyness is a pretty accurate label. But like most blank classifications ignorance is easier than understanding.

Teenage years are full of identity crisis and I had my fair share of those. Dating, conflict and drama permeated my teen life. Part of figuring out who you are is trying new things. For the first time I chose to rebel versus conform.

The sad part is most friendships in high school are out of convenience. Once you graduate it’s the last time you’ll see the majority of your peers. But the friendships you decide to cherish can be lifelong ones. You have the potential to spend up to 4 years on a daily basis with them.

Looking back, being defined by the group of people you surround yourself with: I was an introvert or quiet Asian.

Independence

College was my earliest test of independence. Attending commuter colleges challenged my commitment to education and most of the time I failed. Without having a college counselor to help me choose classes the incentive to attend class wasn’t there.

Being a college student is similar to having your own business. With much choice comes less pre-structured time. If you’re not self-motivated no one is there to hold you accountable. That was a wake up call for me.

It wasn’t until I enrolled at Loyola Marymount University as a Liberal Studies major that I started to take college more seriously (mostly because of tuition). As a student in a predominantly female major field I chose to be the quiet Asian guy mostly out of comfort. It was easier to defer to being quiet.

Ironically the most gut-wrenching course I experienced was Asian American Studies. It was full of shy Asians which should have put me at ease. But after hearing each student complain about generational discrimination I couldn’t relate. My grandparents did spend time in internment camps back in World War II. Yet I was able to have conversations with them and although painful they didn’t dwell on the past.

Call it insensitive, but since my natural inclination is to move forward in life I took an incomplete in that class and moved into Chicano Studies (where I was the sole quiet Asian in the room).

The smartest choice I made in my Bachelors Program was to work as a teacher’s assistant. It gave me a preview of what it takes to be a teacher. Let’s just say 18 months later I changed my major to Psychology because I didn’t envision myself in the classroom setting weekly.

Professional Life

My first meaningful job out of college was a Youth Pastor at the church I grew up in. It was an Asian-American community, but the first time I was able to make strides in breaking the stereotype of being a quiet Asian.

This leadership role forced me to communicate consistently with students, parents and volunteer staff. The majority of the families involved were shy Asians so the target audience was defined. From the outside Asian cultures are perceived to be strong (which most are). In order to break free from the crowd you have to do things differently.

A pivotal moment in my life was choosing to go back to school for a Masters in Organizational Leadership while working full-time. Leadership had always been a hobby before it became my job. Being employed by a mid-sized organization (church) I was sheltered from thriving professionals in various industries.

As much as a leader I was at work, I deferred back to being quiet as a student in grad school to learn from my cohort. In fact during a weekend retreat, we were paired up in twos to lead our group in an activity. Sure enough the talkative Caucasian and quiet Asian ended up being voted the most effective team.

My strategy? Let my partner lead and fill in where necessary.

At that moment I realized being quiet can be effective as a leader.

Evolving

Currently as a business owner my goal is to be a TEDx speaker. Part of the reason is I’ve had many people ask me how I got comfortable speaking in front of people. I tell them it’s been learned over time.

You tend to attract people who are similar to you. So a large chunk of my audience is shy Asians. Yet my hope is to break that stereotype of being labeled a quiet Asian.

My motivation for public speaking has less to do with culture and more to do with personal growth. I aspire to push people to change the narratives in their own lives by trying new things instead of dying with regret.

Introvert Workplace

20 Strengths And Struggles For Introverts In The Workplace


Being an introvert in the workplace has its pros and cons. According to research introverts represent up to 50% of the population. Whether you are an introvert yourself or not, chances are a co-worker can relate to this topic.

Understanding what it is like to be an introvert in the workplace will better equip you to connect, motivate and manage introverts based on their strengths and struggles.

10 Introvert Strengths in the Workplace

Introspective

In order to understand others you first have to be self-aware. Introverts have an uncanny ability to read situations and make intuitive decisions based on intangible factors. Consider it an “inner compass” that guides your thought process. It is a sensitivity to visible and invisible factors in the surrounding environment.

Empathy

Building on introspection, introverts have the strength of putting themselves in other’s shoes. Instead of assuming everyone thinks the same way you do, introverts try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Being empathetic doesn’t mean you agree with someone else’s opinion, but do your best to understand it. Empathy is an introvert strength because most conflict starts from not being heard.

Team Leadership 

Although there is no prototypical leader out there, your relationship with your boss is the single most important factor in your tenure with your current company. Leadership is getting things done through people, yet how it is accomplished makes the biggest difference. A strength of introverts in leadership roles is their willingness to listen, take feedback and empower people to do their best work. Leaders don’t have to rule with an iron fist. In fact, that style usually never works. We all want to work for someone who appreciates and values our opinion. Introvert leaders do that well.

Independent

Collaboration is key in the workplace, but the majority of work gets done alone. Since introverts don’t have the desire to constantly need social stimulation, they can do some of their best work quietly. Meetings can be a distraction and introverts possess the strength of shutting the door to do their best work alone. As a manager, independent workers are much easier to lead.

Mindful

Another strength of introverts is their reflective mindset. Introverts take pride in their work and take responsibility seriously. They also think deeply about personal growth and how they can become better. Introverts respond well to learning and development opportunities that can leverage their natural strengths.

Process Oriented

Successful companies work systematically and an introvert strength is processing information systematically. Basically this includes evaluating how work gets done. Figuring out a way to achieve it more efficiently is important to introverts. All the time introverts spend quiet, their minds are racing. Ask an introvert their opinion one-on-one for best results.

Writing

Communication comes in different forms and one of them is writing. Writing emails, drafting proposals and blogging are some ways introverts can contribute in the workplace. An introvert strength is being able to gather an idea and communicate it clearly for others to follow.

Listening Skills

Introverts are inherently good listeners. Listening is more than hearing what’s said; the tone, intonation and body language of the speaker. Introverts take direction well then execute on it. Most miscommunication happens when people don’t listen so count on introverts avoiding this mistake from the start.

Observant

Watching others from afar is helpful because answers can be found in the details. Introverts are skilled at processing information based on what they see. Since introverts tend to be quieter in nature their actions speak louder than words. Count on introverts in the workplace to study what’s culturally acceptable, then lead by example.

High EQ

With technology on the rise, soft skills are on the decline. A strength of introverts is their self-awareness, empathy and sensitivity towards others. This trait is a summation of the list above and the foundation to empower introverts in the workplace with more responsibility. Business is always done with people and an introvert’s strength their people skills.

10 Introvert Struggles in the Workplace

Anxious

Introverts struggle with anxiety. When most of your thoughts are in your head it is bound to lead to this. Stress comes out in different ways: isolation, depression, feeling sick, etc. It is important to lend a listening ear to introverts in the workplace to avoid them feeling disconnected.

Shy

Introverts tend to be outwardly shy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t value relationships. It just takes more effort from an introvert to start a conversation. Breaking the ice by finding something in common and bringing up a shared experience can forge a friendship that breaks through this barrier.

Dislikes Surprises/Spontaneity

Last minute surprises at work are unavoidable, but with careful planning alternate options should be available. Introverts struggle with time constraints and things not going according to plan. Therefore shield introverts from situations that are chaotic and provide more structure and routine when possible. It may not be an option, but added stress hurts an introvert’s energy and performance.

Drained (Socially)

The biggest misconception of introverts is that they’re anti-social. That couldn’t be further from the truth. What is important to understand is introverts struggle with their energy level after an interaction. While extroverts are energized after a conversation, introverts are drained. To get the most out of introverts in the workplace minimize meetings and schedule uninterrupted patches of work time to prioritize deadlines.

Public Speaking

Most public speakers are extroverts, but with the right training introverts can acquire this skill. Introverts struggle on stage because of their mindset. Until you see yourself as a great orator the training and resources out there can’t help you. Challenge introverts in the workplace with internal presentations before assigning them to external meetings with clients. Public speaking is a learned skill and the only way to improve it is with consistent practice.

Networking

The thought of meeting new people and reciting an elevator pitch produces anxiety for introverts. Introverts struggle with selling themselves to strangers, yet this is a skill set that advances your career. Helping introverts reframe networking events as opportunities to connect with people and build new relationships works better. Your network is your net worth, so the earlier you build and strengthen it, the more opportunities you’ll have to choose from in your career.

Sales

Similar to networking, introverts struggle with sales because they take it too personal. Rejection is part of life and the more you tell yourself it’s about the product/service (not you), the less subjective it feels. There’s more than one way to succeed in sales, so try different methods to reach the customer’s needs. A good way tap into an introvert’s strength is to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and plan a strategy from that perspective.

Taking Initiative

Introverts struggle with taking initiative because they are always thinking about how the other person is going to respond. Initiative isn’t about predicting what is right every time. Instead it is about taking risks and not living with regrets. Opportunities present themselves for a short period and then they disappear. Helping introverts live in the moment, not dwell in the past, or worry about the future is helpful.

Over-Analyzing/Negative Self-Talk

Introverts have constant conversations in their head. The problem is analysis-paralysis. Introverts struggle with over thinking things. Constant analyzing of information is debilitating. Combine this with the tendency to be hard on yourself and it is a bad combo. Managers can encourage introverts to put their ideas on paper and move forward with action versus getting stuck in their head.

Caring Too Much What Others Think

The downside of being empathetic is the desire to care too much. Similar to co-dependency where you crave to be liked no matter what. Introverts struggle with caring too much what others think about them which leads to a downward spiral of emotions. Being liked and being respected are two completely different concepts. Help introverts in the workplace focus on earning their co-workers respect which keeps them goal-oriented.

Introvert College

The Introverts Survival Guide For College


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Dear Introvert in College,

Being an introvert in college is tough, but understanding what truly brings you anxiety is key. For example, transitioning from being known in high school social circles to being nameless in college is reality. There’s pressure to join clubs, groups and even fraternities/sororities, yet those feel more like an obligation than actual fun. But when it comes to socializing introverts do value relationships, yet they prefer building them on their own terms. 

Dealing With Social Anxiety

How to make friends in college as an introvert is based on quality over quantity. For instance, large gatherings and events are intimidating, while grabbing coffee one-on-one can be more palatable. When attending a party don’t aim to meet a bunch of new faces, instead have brief conversations with a few and plan to continue those chats at a later time in a quieter setting. Finding common interests are a good icebreaker and help spark a dialogue, but more importantly focus on removing loud distractions that can inhibit listening, observing and pausing between communication.

When it comes to making friends in college as an introvert it’s more of an art form than a race. More has to do with chemistry than elevator pitches. It’s less about numbers and more about finding compatibility. A few good friends goes further than a lot of acquaintances.

Myth vs. Reality

Dealing with the negative perception by others of being shy and anti-social isn’t always true. Introverts crave social interaction as much as extroverts, but how they utilize and recharge their energy after the exchange is what differs. Introverts shine in smaller settings where the person is on display versus the activity. As an introvert in college spend more time strategizing on the surroundings to set yourself up for social success.

In addition to being with others, make sure to schedule alone time in your calendar. Just like a class you attend, set aside time to think, analyze and reflect by yourself during the week. A simple solo date will recharge your social battery and give you the energy to meet and interact freshly with peers along the way. 

Tips For Professional Development

While in college don’t forget to invest time in your professional development. Being an introvert in college can be viewed as a disadvantage, but this is where having a strong game plan will play to your advantage. College students should focus on the three following activities to prepare them for the real world: internships, networking and sales. If introverts can master these, the post-college transition will be that much easier after graduation. 

Get Experience

Book knowledge will only get you so far that’s why experience holds more weight on your resume than education. Seek out and apply for internships in areas you feel might be a good fit and others you’re skeptical of. You will never truly know what is or isn’t a good fit career wise unless you try it. As an introvert in college start practicing your interview skills before you need full-time employment.

Time in your 20’s is usually spent job-hopping because most college students lack hands-on experience in different industries so trial and error becomes the only way to decipher what’s right for you professionally. Completing multiple internships in various fields while in college speeds up the process of identifying roles that are an extension of who you are. 

Start Building Your Network

As an introvert in college your network will eventually determine your net worth. That means making friends in college helps you personally and professionally down the road. In this case, as an introvert knowing the purpose of an activity may lessen the stress towards accomplishing the goal. The easiest way to start growing your network is: making friends.

From there friends of friends become part of your extended network. The mistake most young professionals make is trying to grow their network only when they need a new job. Similar to dating, you can’t expect to get what you want right off the bat. It takes time. If there is one goal you should set for yourself in college it should be to build and grow your network. 

Get Sales-y

Lastly if there’s one job that is recession-proof it’s sales. I’d highly recommend early on in your career taking a sales position. It doesn’t matter if it’s a product or service, you’re still exhibiting the same skills (although selling a tangible product may be a tad bit easier). Learn how to influence, persuade and motivate people to buy. Observe their body language, opposition and desires. Sales may never be your speciality, but that doesn’t matter. It has practical applications like a job interview as an example. In an interview instead of selling a product or service, you’re selling yourself.

At one point in your career the ability to sell will advance you…without it you might get stuck. Being an introvert in college may be an excuse not to give sales a try because of the pressure of social transactions, but remember employers only care about results, not how you get there. Translation: in sales there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but the only way to sharpen your style is with practice. 

Don’t Lose Hope As An Introvert In College!

Being an introvert in college is challenging, yet can be viewed positively as a training ground for the real world. When it comes to soft skills there are different forms of communication to be mastered such as: verbal, interpersonal, written, formal and visual. As an introvert don’t shy away from any forms because of anxiety. In fact challenge yourself to practice them to help find your voice and style as a communicator.

Surviving in college is about having a game plan and sticking to it. There are plenty of successful leaders who attended college as introverts such as: J.K. Rowling, Michael Jordan and Warren Buffet. They may not have checked off the suggested skills in this article, but they were able to find their identity, focus on their strengths and surround themselves with people who compliment their weaknesses. 

Being an introvert in college is an exciting journey, not a scary one. Treat it as the preparation for great things to come. Don’t just survive in college, thrive during it!

This is the same advice I wish someone gave to me as an introvert in college over 15 plus years ago.

Your fellow introvert,

Scott Asai